Ecommerce Hot Seat with Joe Burton, Director of Professional Services at Miva
Navigating a sea of client challenges on the outside, team management on the inside requires a steady hand at the helm. Ergo, when it came to raising up a Director of Professional Services—Miva’s band of ecom strategy, site builds, and systems integration behemoths in one—the leadership team knew just who to turn to.
Joe Burton, a Nevada transplant with decades of development and design experience under his toolbelt, started as the associate web developer on the 6-person 2011 Pro Services team. The department has since grown five times its original size thanks, in no small part, to the thoughtful steering of one Joe Burton.
As he does with every project, Joe commanded our attention with his big picture perspective yet meticulous attention to detail all at once, as well as his innate ability to put others—clients and cohorts—first. Get to know Joe Burton, Director of Professional Services at Miva.
Finish this sentence. At Miva, I help my clients and my team by: What I love to do is provide good leadership and the tools and utilities my team needs to be serve our clients effectively. Ultimately, that is what our overall goal is: to help our clients sell their product, bring in better revenue, and to better position them in the ecommerce space.
It’s a confusing space for a lot of people. Merchants who are just starting up and don’t know web development or ecommerce practices are forced to take a shot in the dark.
“I think that’s where we strive to work hard: helping our clients understand the nuances of ecommerce and providing the support they need so they can be freed up to focus on their business.”
You have a background in development. How has that helped you as a manager? Coming into a management role I was really in tune with the needs and challenges as a developer, but I knew that if I led the department with that singular vision, we wouldn’t succeed. My first initiative was to fully envelop myself in the other roles—project management, account management, and design—to understand their needs and challenges. Getting this perspective was necessary to benefit the department, not just one specific area, overall.
Looking at this big picture view of your department seems parallel to how you would work with a client. It’s true. Taking a strategic approach to any challenge, both with our clients and internally, is essential to ensure we’re not compromising anything: helping one aspect of the business or department and, in turn, hurting another.
You run a team of 30. What qualities do you look for and how do you shape your team? It depends. Each aspect of our department has unique roles and responsibilities to them, and those require specific skill sets. I put myself in the mindset of each role when interviewing a specific candidate for that position. When I interview a project manager, I’m not taking the same approach as when I’m interviewing someone for a development position.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Richard Branson. One of his famous quotes is, ‘take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your clients.’ I truly believe that.”
For example, with developers, what I look for is a strong-minded sense around logic and programming. A lot of times you’ll get people that look for specific language, or a specific technology that someone knows how to use. For me, it’s more about finding someone with the right brain for that type of work.
Likewise, from a project management standpoint, it’s more organization. I like to find people that are almost OCD about keeping things in order and organized. With the account management role, I look for people who will communicate well with our clients—someone who is able to keep things organized and on track for our clients, but who also has that personal touch and enjoys dealing with people.
What excites you about the future of Pro Services at Miva? Aw man, there’s so much! (laughs) What’s really getting me excited right now is that, as technology changes and we grow as a company, we’re better able to channel the information we find in our day-to-day working with the software to our software department. We’ve seen this lead to very real changes in the software which only benefits our clients, and the work we do.
Also, the burgeoning talent and technology are better positioning us to expand and grow our service offerings. AngularJS, for instance, is an exciting framework that’s allowing us to create these customizable product builders like the NHS Fun Factory skate deck builder or the arrow builder with Three Rivers Archery.
“I’ve seen a lot of companies moving toward customizable builds, which allow them to walk customers through their products in a way that’s both fluid and unique.”
What’s the most complex feature or integration your team has had to build? There are two different angles. The skateboard builder [for NHS Fun Factory] was certainly a challenge.
Any enterprise project we launch is a huge success story for us. It’s very rewarding.
“When you’re dealing with large data sets and customizable products you have to take a calculated approach so you don’t sacrifice other areas of the website just for a ‘cool feature’. If a feature doesn’t flow with the user experience it can be useless, no matter how cool it is.”
We also integrate with a lot of third-party software: ERP systems, CRM systems, and the like. It’s been a fun challenge learning about another software, then seeing what Miva’s capable of doing and building the middleman between the two. We’ve done a lot of that for our enterprise clients and I think that is one of the more unique and challenging things we do in our department that gets us excited and lets us play with cool new tools.
Speaking of enterprise, imagine you have the Top 500 enterprise ecommerce businesses in a room. You’re given the microphone. What do you say? When you have that many people in a room together and there are that many great minds and ideas, I wouldn’t feel comfortable being the only one talking. I’d start by asking the crowd questions about what’s important to them and what’s been working. That’s a big reason we do our conference every year: not to grab a microphone and spout about our software in front of all our clients, but to gather these businesses dealing with unique aspects of ecommerce together to converse and learn from each other.
“To get in one room where we can converse and tackle these challenges together—that’s ultimately why we have our conference every year.”
To me, everything is an open conversation and an opportunity to learn from one another.
Great answer. One last question: What drives you to keep doing what you do for your clients and your team? What drives me is seeing my clients and my team succeed. I’m very big on personal and professional growth and I see every problem as a challenge: an opportunity to learn more; to better yourself; to help our clients. I feel this is something I share with a lot of my team.
When I see my team happy because of a client win, or when one of our clients takes to Facebook or Twitter to talk about what a wonderful experience they had with us—that’s what drives me every day. That’s what gets me out of bed, gets me excited to come into work, because I know there are opportunities to have even more of those clients.
The more we can help our clients succeed, the more we succeed, and that’s ultimately what drives me and my team. Talking about our client wins are some of the most energizing conversations that we have.
“Finding opportunities to solve problems that have plagued our client’s business for years, and then seeing them succeed—that’s what drives us every day.
It means the world to us.”